Labour History Review

Mabon's Day: The Rise and Fall of a Lib–Lab Holiday in the South Wales Coalfield, 1888–1898

Labour History Review (2007), 72, (1), 49–68.

Abstract

The rise and fall of Mabon's Day, a monthly holiday observed by miners in the South Wales coalfield between 1888 and 1898, is examined. Named after the Lib–Lab MP, William Abraham (better known by his bardic name, Mabon), the winning of the holiday reveals much about the industrial strategy of the Welsh Lib–Labs. Hitherto, historians have simply assumed that the holiday was the product of a compromise between masters and men. As such, it has been suggested that the securing of the day represents a highpoint for Mabonism — an industrial strategy generally characterized as being conciliatory and even timid in nature. Here it is shown that this view is erroneous. Mabon's Day was born out of conflict not compromise; it was a right of labour that was seized by the workers. The article also considers the effectiveness of the moral populism of the Lib–Labs. In 1888, Mabon skilfully deployed a highly moralized image of the miners when making a case for more leisure time. However, the drunkenness and other 'abuses' that became associated with the holiday highlighted the limitations — even in a Nonconformist stronghold such as South Wales — of such a strategy.

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Author details

Croll, Andy